Category Archives: Redemption

Life Lessons from Dogs

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We own 3 dogs, each one of which is unique in their own way and teaching me different things. Cookie, my dog, we got before Christmas last year. (That’s her in the pic.) Some friends of ours had more dogs than they could now take care of and she needed a home. We were told that she had probably been abused sometime before they got her. She whined about everything. She was always needy, always right up in your space. I figured there was nothing wrong with her that a little time and love couldn’t fix.

In reality, my reasons ran a little deeper. After all that we went through last year by the time we got to Christmas I felt broken inside. I guess I figured that if I could fix Cookie then I could fix myself as well. If there’s hope for one of us then there’ hope for both, right?

It never happened. Sure we fixed a few minor things. She had to learn to come when we called for her. But the deeper things never went away like I thought they would.

Working nights meant I was home during the day a lot over the past couple of months. About two weeks ago we had this really bad storm come through, and let me start by saying that Cookie hates storms. She came up to me shaking, with this look on her face that said I wish I didn’t do this but can’t stop it. It made me realize that she is who she is and I am who I am. I told her as much, and since that day she’s opened up to me. She’s been more loving, more playful, and a lot less worried about everything.

If you’ve been around the church much at all odds are good you’ve heard this one, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). We Christians love to talk about ourselves as “works in progress,” the idea being that we have certain behaviours that have to go and Christ is helping us do that. He’s the one fixing us, so to speak.

If you’ve read enough of my posts here you’ll know that I’m going to disagree with that, but first let me say that I am not for a moment overlooking that we all have our rough edges. If you’re like me and have a temper from time to time it’s a noble thing to reign that in. All I’m saying is that maybe what Paul is getting at here goes deeper. Maybe it’s less about fixing ourselves, or having Christ fix us, and learning to love ourselves as we are. After all, he already does.

On Turning 30

download-birthday-clip-art-free-clipart-of-birthday-cake-parties-9H4hL8-clipartSo today is my 30th birthday (yay me!) and this being the milestone that it is I marked it with Castle Season 8 and Chinese food this past weekend, along with getting my hair done and cake tonight. Being the introspective type that I am, it’s also had me thinking. It hit me last week, as today got closer and closer, just how much I’ve changed in the last 10 years.

Back in 2007, I was two years out of high school and on my second post-secondary institution (chosen mainly because I wanted to get back out to Western Canada and I had to choose something). People who knew me back then will tell you that I wanted more than anything else to matter. I wanted to make a difference, to have a fulfilling career. I was also, by my own admission, damned impatient. Every decision, whether it was regarding career paths or fields to study, felt like the be all and end all that would determine the rest of my life. And I had to get it right. I also had to get it right now. As I watched those I grew up with get married, start a family and progress in their careers, in my own mind at least I had to be right there with them. Every perceived misstep felt like the end of the world.

Fast forward 10 years and the job that I currently have is actually very similar to one I held just out of high school (it just pays better). Is it fulfilling? Does what I do matter to those around me? Not really. I mean, yes, it’s important and it keeps the store running, but is it what I thought I’d be doing when I thought of making a difference a decade ago? No. And you know what? The funny thing is I’m OK with that.

I’ve learned over the last few years that there is more to life than just the job you do. To be sure I still want to enjoy what I do, but that’s really the only requirement for me right now. There is something to be said for a job that pays the bills, that isn’t that stressful, and that allows me to do what needs done as best I can and then come home. A job that provides the freedom to enjoy life and to make a difference in other ways. A job that pays for a roof over our heads and food on the table and Internet to publish my writings. That’s the kind of job I have right now, and I couldn’t ask for more.

The other part of today is that in many ways I have even less of life figured out than I did just a year or two ago. The ironic side of it is that this doesn’t bother me anywhere near as much as it probably should. Life will sort itself out, and while I’m not saying I’ve given up dreaming and hoping and wondering, I am saying that I do myself and those around me a disservice by trying to rush things.

So if you’re in your 20’s and you’re reading this, let the pressure off. You don’t have to get it right. You’ll probably get it wrong many times and that’s OK. It’s not the end of the world. Life doesn’t end when you turn 30.

When will we learn?

In taking the time to reach out to the LGBTQ community over the last few months, I’ve learned that we as Christians can often have a skewed idea of what those who disagree with us are trying to achieve when they disagree with us. We tend to look closely at what we stand to lose if they were to gain a more dominant voice in society than we have, and then we combine that analysis with our own fears and conclude that these people are the enemy and must be opposed no matter the cost. The end result is that we come off looking kinda stupid given what we profess to believe.

I was reminded of this last week when I stumbled into a Facebook discussion of whether or not Christians in the U.S. are actually being persecuted for their faith at present. The general consensus was that it can and does happen but that more often than not what we term persecution is simply those we disagree with responding in kind to how we’ve treated them. Buried in that discussion was what prompted me to write this post. One gay man made a statement that stopped me in my tracks. I’ve heard many different perspectives from other Christians as to what, in general, LGBTQ people want. There have been some who honestly say it’s about civil rights, others who say they’re trying to force their agenda on us, and still others who say that it’s about indoctrinating everyone who disagrees with them. What no one has said before was what this man pointed out, that all he really wanted was for those who disagreed with him to respect his right to live as he sees fit. He was aware that people out there may never actually see gay marriage in a positive light. While that did hurt, he said the important thing was not necessarily to change their minds but rather for them to respect his right to hold the views that he does and to live by them. In turn, he would treat them based on whether or not they did.

As a Christian, that made me think. It’s such a simple thing. As we believe in a God who gave us free will we should be the first to show respect when others exercise that free will even if we don’t agree with how they’re doing it. And yet we’re not. Too often we’re the least respectful people involved. Why is that? Are we afraid? Have we forgotten the God we claim to know? How hard is it really to do something as simple as respecting the choices of others? And when will we learn that doing so will be a far greater testimony to Jesus than any impassioned defense of traditional marriage will ever be? What saddens me even more is that we can’t even see that this is in our best interest as well. If we can legislate in discriminatory ways based on our beliefs, the LGBTQ community can do likewise when the political winds shift. And yet we can’t even see that.

In Luke 6:31, Jesus says, “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” We’re sending a hell of a message by our example right now. We treat others like crap,  I then cry persecution when they treat us as we treated them. When will we learn? Not, I’m afraid, before it’s too late for those we are supposed to care about the most (and quite possibly for ourselves, too). In the end, what they are trying to achieve is nothing more than to have the very respect we already owe them.

It’s Not Over Yet

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One of my all-time favorite TV shows is The Last Ship (I’ve quoted from it before in case you missed it). I’ve been slowly working through it as I find the seasons for sale at my local 2nd & Charles. Anyways, early on in the second season there’s an episode where the crew finally make it home to look for their families. If you’ve never seen the series, the USS Nathan James has spent the first season looking for a cure to this global pandemic and now that they’ve found it and fought off those who want it for themselves they get to go home to check on their own families. Many, obviously, don’t have families to go back to, but for Captain Chandler it’s different. His family, minus his wife who died before he could rescue them, is on the ship with him.

For Captain Chandler the questions are different than they are for his crew. Going home is only supposed to be temporary while they refuel and resupply. His wife died because he wasn’t there to save her and he blames himself, meaning he wrestles with the guilt he feels and whether or not he should go back to sea with his crew. What happens to his kids if he doesn’t come back this time? Given how badly his crew has been hurt so far, he isn’t just playing the what-if game. How can he justify that risk?

Chandler is not the only one in the episode who struggles, either. His Executive Officer, Commander Slattery, hasn’t had much word from his family since the show started. In short, he has no idea where they are and no one would really blame him if he left to look for them. He’s torn between leaving to look for them or staying with the ship.

Life can get that way for us sometimes, too, can’t it? You finally get to where you want to be in life, whether it’s in your career or with your family, and you start thinking your job is done. Or maybe you start to think that you’ll never get to where you want to be in life, so why bother, right? Maybe you’re one who follows Jesus and you get to where you want to be and so you say to him, “You do what you want. I followed you this far but I like where I’m at right now so I’m just going to stay here.”

For the characters of The Last Ship, the job isn’t done yet. Their mission, that of putting the world back together, is in many ways just getting started, and both the Captain and the XO belong with their ship. It’s a good thing, too, because greater threats await them when they do go back out.

I know how that feels because I’m there myself. My position right now is a curious mix of both. For one thing, I’ve been job hunting for so long that I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever find something that affords us greater financial freedom. On the other, we’ve spent years longing for a place of our own and now that we have it I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to do next. There are many days where I just want to take it easy. The battle’s over, right? I mean, we got what we wanted. And as one who follows Jesus, there are indeed days when I do just want to tell him that I’m good where I’m at so can we please just pause life here for a while? Let the world get on without me for a while.

Here’s the thing. We have the freedom to make that choice. We can duck out of life if we so choose. That being said, if you’re reading this you’re still breathing, and that means your life isn’t over yet. That, in turn, means you’re not done yet. There is more to do, and I don’t mean that in terms of religious obligations of some kind. I mean there’s more to see, more to learn, more times to be there for those closest to you, and more opportunities to choose intimacy with Jesus. And if you don’t know him, there’s more time to listen to his tug on your heart.

Will it cost us? Yes. Not everyone who goes back out with Captain Chandler is still around come the end of the season. The very thought of what that might mean in my own story makes me hesitate. Do I really want to go back out there again? Problem is, what we have to do in this life matters. It really does. And if not me, then who? If not you, then who? It’s your story, and it’s not over yet.

No Place Like Home

In Luke 9:58, when a man tells Jesus, “I’ll follow you anywhere,” Jesus responds by stating that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Now I’ve read that passage dozens of times, and heard it preached on once or twice, usually in the context of trying to explain the cost of following Christ. The entire end of this chapter actually explores the concept and it’s really quite fascinating, especially from a literary point of view. We get these 3 little snippets of conversation, without being told anything about who it is that’s talking to Jesus or how they respond to what he tells them or even why they say what they do in the first place. All we get, really, is the interaction. But I digress.

I’ve usually taken this particular verse in the sense of if I was ever a missionary in some foreign place then I might not necessarily have a pillow or a bed or whatnot. I’d have to make do with whatever I could find. What got my attention here, and what I want to point out, is in the first part of the verse. To a fox and a bird, a hole in the ground and a nest aren’t just a place to sleep at night. They’re home. They’re a place of relative safety, a place to raise your young. The human equivalent might be a place to be yourself. A place where you can relax, let your guard down, and check your worries at the door. As you might imagine, this isn’t just a physical place but an emotional one, as well. Home is where the heart is, right?

Here’s the thing. We’re not promised any of that. That’s what Jesus’s statement is meant to convey to this eager young man. If Jesus himself never had that, how can we expect to? And I don’t say that to burst your bubble or point you to some “super spiritual” wisdom. It’s meant to be a comfort in addition to a challenge. If you find yourself in a place where you’re not understood or not welcome, or where you’re alone, you’re in good company. And it’s probably not your fault, either. We are, after all, always going to be outcasts in this world. Only when we finally reach heaven’s shores will we truly be home. Until that day, don’t lose heart. You are not misunderstood or unwanted, and you are never truly alone. You are known fully and loved deeply by the one who died just to be with you and who, if you are willing to trust him, will be waiting for you there with open arms.

A Call for Civility and a Little Good Faith

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It’s been longer than I planned on since I posted last. Part of that was accidental and part, I have to admit, was deliberate. With all the controversy surrounding LGBTQ issues I wanted to step back and take a breather. Clear my head, and try to understand where this whole reaching out thing is supposed to go from here.

Social media being what it is, that’s been easier said than done. I follow a number of both conservative and LGBTQ sites on Facebook, for example, and with the Trump administration removing guidance on the Title IX protections, the Supreme Court sending the Gavin Grimm case back down to a lower federal appeals court, the increase in states pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation, and the gay character in the new Beauty and the Beast movie, my Facebook feed has been fairly full. I’ve also had a front row seat to the hostility both sides have directed towards each other, and it is to this hostility that I want to speak.

Reading through the comments on a number of different LGBTQ posts, you quickly get the sense that everyone who disagrees with them is a hateful, homophobic bigot that needs to accept reality and get with the times. Conversely, on Christian and conservative sites, you quickly get the impression that the LGBTQ community is trying to shove their beliefs down our throats, normalize behavior that isn’t normal, and put their feelings above the rights of the rest of the country. (Franklin Graham called for a boycott of Disney, for crying out loud.)

Here’s the thing. Once you get past the emotions tied up in all of this (and I’ll grant you there’s a lot of that on both sides), much of what each side accuses the other of just isn’t true. I know a number of Christians, for example, who are good, loving people yet who oppose same-sex rights. Are they intentionally bigoted and hateful? From what I can tell, no. They’re just coming to terms with an issue that they’ve never had to address in their worldview before. Sometimes in thinking through these things we say and do hurtful things without realizing it and sometimes we may come across as hurtful without meaning to. I know a number of of people, for example, who have expressed anger at Disney for the gay character in Beauty and the Beast not because they are ardent homophobes but rather because Disney has gone and changed a character they’ve known and loved for years. Now I am definitely not defending the actions we have taken that have been deliberately hurtful and in which I am very much convinced we know exactly what we’re doing (see my letter from January for more on that). All I am saying is that there are many Christians out there who are simply trying to come to terms with LGBTQ rights. I can tell you from experience that this is not an easy thing to do. I’m a Christian and as ardent a supporter of LGBTQ rights as you’re likely to find in the South, yet it’s taken me almost a year of reflection on my beliefs to get to this point. Many of these people I’m referring to have have held these views for years, in some cases far longer than I had, and such things are not always simply changed.

On the other side, as I’ve interacted with members of the LGBTQ community through social media I’ve come to realize that the vast majority aren’t guilty of the things we accuse them of. They’re not trying to shove their beliefs down our throats and neither are they trying to put their feelings above the rights of the rest of the country. (Even if they were, the rights that currently exist in this country wouldn’t exist at all unless someone had felt strongly enough to ensure they were protected.) They simply want to live their lives the same as you and me. They want to exist. They’ve fought for years to have the same rights we do and they are understandably hurt and pissed off that we try so hard to take those away.

What, I wonder, would happen if each side simply set aside the fear and emotions and simply took the other side in good faith? I’m not denying the hurt that does exist. All I’m saying is that a little understanding and civility might go a long way towards opening up the lines of communication that we so badly need. We’re all human, after all, and all deserving of the dignity and respect that goes with that. Furthermore, as Christians it might be the only way to share Christ’s love in this whole mess, which is the very thing we’re supposed to be about as God’s people in this world. We ask for faith as part of our dealings with others around us. Maybe it’s time we showed a little, too.

Why Reach Out at All?

bf12cf208fe99c47d926428de6a91562So the question has come up several times in the last few weeks as to why I am so committed to reaching out as I do. Why reach out to the LGBTQ community at all, especially living in the South where being Baptist and talking to them at all virtually guarantees I’ll never have a pastorate of my own? I mean, am I gay myself? Do I plan on “becoming gay”? On the other hand, am I simply trying to get LGBTQ people to change, to “repent” of being gay (or lesbian or whatever) so they can go to heaven when they die? I wanted to take the time to clarify, both for myself and for others reading this, as to just why this ministry is so important. That first question is really the one I want to answer, but let me start with the others first.

Am I gay? No. I am happily married to a beautiful woman and quite content with that. Do I plan on “becoming gay”? No. Again, if you missed it the first time, I am happily married to a beautiful woman and quite content with that. So why reach like this? Am I trying to get LGBTQ people to “repent” so they can go to heaven when they die? Yet again, no. I am not. We get the idea that they even need to from passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which reads, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Seems pretty straightforward, right? If you’re gay, you don’t go to heaven unless you stop being gay. The problem with that interpretation comes when you look at the other categories listed in this passage. In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus equates adultery with lust, meaning  if you’re guilty of the second you’re also guilty of the first. I’ve known a lot of Christian guys over the years who’ve struggled with that one, and if you apply the same logic to lust that we just applied to being gay, well, they’re not going to heaven, either. And that’s a problem, because in Hebrews 10:12 we’re also told that Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to pay the price for all sin. Period. End of sentence. You can’t add to that sacrifice, meaning nothing else is needed for eternal life. So in a roundabout way, no, I am not reaching out to the LGBTQ community because I believe that your sexuality is something that has to dramatically change in order for you to be acceptable in God’s sight. 

So why, then? If what the Bible says is true (and I understand that there are a lot of people reading this who disagree with that and that’s fine; just hear me out), then we as Christians have the hope within us that changes everything. The hope of life after death, the hope of a relationship with the one who made you and gave his life so that that relationship could be restored. You see Christianity isn’t just about being loving or accepting others as they are or even fighting for your civil rights (although it is all of those things). It’s about that relationship, and sharing that with you so that you can come home to the one who loves you as you are, whether you’re straight, trans, gay, lesbian, or whatever. He calls to us through our desires and our hopes and our dreams. He wants us back.  And if we as Christians treat you the way that we have historically, then you don’t see that. You don’t want anything to do with that. And for me, that’s a problem. You can read what I’ve written, you can examine the claims of Christianity, and you can think the whole thing is a crock and go on with your life and that’s fine. We all have free will. We all get to make that choice. However, if you can’t even look at what the Bible says because of our actions as Christians, well, that’s not so fine. That’s our fault. The only thing that keeps you out of heaven is what you decide to do with Jesus and what he offers (Matthew 7:23). So why do I do what I do? I want you as members of the LGBTQ community to have a fair shot at making that choice. You deserve it.

Mobile Strike, Childhood Dreams, and the Grind of My Life

maxresdefaultI guess it shouldn’t surprise me, what with my being a member of several gaming related groups on Facebook (mainly related to Star Trek Online, my all-time favourite MMORPG), but most of the ads on my Facebook feed right now are for different games.  The one that keeps popping up more than most is Mobile Strike, which if the hype is to be believed is the #1 downloadable game right now (or something to that effect; it must be a big deal if Arnold Schwarzenegger is associated with it). What gets me most about the different ads for this game is how blatantly they try to sell the experience. The ads take you from playing a game on your phone to actually being a hero in combat, leading your forces and fighting for domination. What gets me about that approach, in particular, is that it’s just not true.

I will readily admit I love computer games. Whether I’m trying to outsmart the computer players in Civilization V, or boldly going where no man has gone before on the bridge of my ship in Star Trek Online, playing through computer games is a very diverting hobby for me. Part of the appeal, to be sure, is simple stress relief (blowing shit up is a hell of a lot of fun), but part of it is also the chance to vicariously live out a story that is dramatically different from my own. Take Star Trek Online, for example. The way the game works, you can create multiple characters (if you so choose), but each one progresses through what is more or less the same storyline. In my case, having created 5 different characters, this means that I’ve played through most episodes of the story at least 5 times. There’s actually one particular episode I’ve played through a grand total of 15 different times (playing multiple times with each character means that you get better gear for each character). By that point, however, there really isn’t much of a story left anymore, meaning that I’ve spent countless hours creating a story to go along with the story that’s already present in the game. I can tell you who each of my characters are, what their personalities are like, what their life stories are, and even why they chose the name for their ships that they did.

As diverting and entertaining as all this may be, I have to remind myself that these characters are not actually real. I’m not actually exploring the galaxy on the bridge of my ship. What I am doing is playing a game, which at its most basic level means I am sitting in front of a computer and manipulating pixels on the screen. Mobile Strike is the same thing; the only difference is the screen tends to be smaller. So why, then, do we want to believe so badly, even just for a second, that we’re actually doing what our alter-egos in these games are doing? We must want to, otherwise they wouldn’t use that desire to get us to download these games. Do we hate our lives that much that we’re looking for an escape from them? Or is it something else, something deeper? I mean, what is it about these games that draws us to an opportunity to be someone stronger, someone greater, than who we are at present?

Most of us, I think, would admit that our lives aren’t what they could be. I don’t mean that in the “go out and get a real job” sense, or in the “win the lottery and have everything perfect” sense. When you were a kid, what did you dream of being when you grew up? I work with kids for a living. We did this exercise this past week where I asked them to draw a picture of who they want to be when they grow up, and every single one of them, without fail, drew themselves as a super-hero. I don’t know about you, but I remember having similar dreams. I’d grow up to be someone great, having noble adventures doing something that mattered, and I’d save the day when no one else could. That is the kind of disconnect I’m pointing to when I say our lives aren’t what they could be. I work long hours with kids who more often than not fight me every step of the way, come home at night to eat dinner and watch a little TV, and then go to sleep to get up and do it all over again. In between I work a little on our house, make sure the dishes get done, and try to find a little time to relax with my wife. Doesn’t exactly compare with my boyhood dreams, does it? Think for a minute about your own dreams growing up, and then compare them with your current situation. Most of us are longing for more and we don’t know why, which is exactly why games like Mobile Strike are so popular. Here is a way to be that person you’ve always longed to be, and even better, it doesn’t cost you anything. There’s no chance of getting hurt while you’re out saving the day. It’s all of the glory with none of the risk.

Gaming isn’t the only way we try to fill the void created by this disconnect. We think that if we work longer hours, find something we’re really satisfied in doing, then it will go away. Or maybe, if we have the perfect house with the manicured lawn, then we’ll be past it. Some of us are a little more direct in our approach, and try to drown the disconnect in alcohol or other substances. The more spiritual of us will try to make it go away through church involvement, or something else respectable. Thing is, we can never kill it without killing ourselves, and I don’t know about you but that’s too high a price to pay.

Go back to your childhood dreams for a moment. I don’t know you, so I don’t know what they were, but you do. Is it possible that we have those dreams, and those aspirations, for a reason? What if they’re giving us a glimpse into the reality we actually live in? I know it may sound crazy, but what if, just what if, the reason that we can’t kill the disconnect they help to create is because they serve a very real purpose? Think about that.

Most of us think of Christianity as moral obligations and rules, outdated beliefs about how we’re supposed to live our lives. If you repent of all the right things before you die, you get to go heaven, and in the meantime you get to look down on all those poor souls who don’t believe as you do. It may surprise you to know that, while the Bible does contain rules for living, most of it is story. There’s a beginning, middle, and end, a plot, and a hero and a villain (along with a whole host of other characters). The short version is that God created angels first, only Lucifer rebelled and with a third of all the angels tried to take the throne of heaven by force. They lost and were thrown out of heaven, but they cast doubt on the goodness of God and so he created us, gave us a paradise in Eden and romanced us. Only we rejected him, trusting Lucifer (now called Satan) instead, and so God has done everything he can to win our hearts once more. Jesus is the fullest expression of that love and determination, and the cross is where he actually made it possible. We now live in the middle of the great struggle as God works to win back us and our world from the control of Satan. That is the story of the Bible in a nutshell, and I don’t know about you, but it bears a hell of a lot of resemblance to my boyhood dreams. Could it be that this is the reality which those dreams pointed to?

Maybe we feel like we’re meant to be more because we are meant to be more. We long to matter because we actually do matter. We long for purpose and adventure and romance because that’s what this story is all about, and we’re meant to take our place in that story. I have to also say that I’m not telling you this to enlist support for some cause or another. The idea of “spiritual warfare” has been used by Christians to justify some really dumb things over the years, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. If you’ve identified with any of what I’ve said here, if you feel that disconnect, too, then don’t ignore it or try to kill it. It’s pointing you to something more, to the story that God is telling and to your place in it. Don’t ignore that.

You Didn’t Break Me

774ec30a76104ab441466a794653c586There are times in my life, as I’ve written about before, where even as a minister I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in my life or what to do about it or even how to process it. There are also, as I’ve found out these last weeks, times in my life where I know exactly how things are going to turn out and exactly what I need to do, only to find out that things have gone the exact opposite of how I thought they would go, I can’t respond the way I’d planned, and I am, yet again, back to the whole “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do” thing.

Back in December, when we had moved out of where we were living with my wife’s family and I was finally free to be myself again especially with regard to my hair, I got it coloured dark brown with blonde bangs. Being as I’m a natural redhead, and when I’d got it done in the past it was usually some combination of red with blonde highlights, this change was a bit of shock for everybody (myself included). Why did I go out and make such a drastic change? Part of it, I think, was simply wanting to put the past behind me, but a larger part of it was wanting to say, “I’m still here, and I’m still me, and I’m still going to do what I’ve been doing to express who I am.” In short, “You didn’t break me.”

Even as I’ve grown to love my new look (and it does look great!) I’ve found that the anger and the hurt didn’t go away from when I was accused of being gay last August and run out of the house until I got a “man’s haircut” (whatever the hell that was supposed to be). Maybe it was naïve of me to think that it would go away in an instant, but I guess I’d hoped that by moving on outwardly I’d be able to move on inwardly, too.

I’ve always had perfectly straight hair, and I’d had it permed back before that whole blow up and I loved having it curly. One of the things I’d been looking forward to over the last couple of months was finally having my hair long enough again to make it worth getting it permed. Funny as it may seem, I missed my curly hair (and I’ve also found out the hard way that I lack a certain skillset required to curl it myself). Anyways, yesterday I got it permed again, and you know what? I am finally starting to feel like myself again.

Thing is, the shadow of August still seems to linger. I guess I’d thought that by returning to my normal that things would start to normalize inside, too, and I don’t know, maybe it’s too soon, but… Yeah. It lingers. And you know what? I don’t want it to. I don’t want to be the eternally resentful guy, that bitter person that nobody wants to be around. And I’m tired of being wary around others, like I’m expecting another attack. And I don’t want to be so wary of being different and standing out that I just give up and give in to the demands of society that I conform to what everybody else expects. That’s the last thing I want to happen. So what am I supposed to do?

One of the things that kept me going through the months after the blow up where we still lived with my wife’s family was the knowledge that once the trump card was gone, once they could no longer hold over my head the “you’re living with us so you’ll do what we want or we’ll kick you out” card, I’d be able to finally, actually defend myself. I would stand up to them, on an even playing field, and confront them in such a way that they would understand this would never happen again. Those who know me well know that I can be a force to be reckoned with in an argument when I want to be, and I was going to bring all of that to bear on those who were behind what happened in August. Except, we moved out, and… none of that happened. I didn’t do what I’d dreamed of doing for so long. Truth be told, I couldn’t. Part of it is that we’ve needed their help to get established here. The main part, though, was that 2016 was, for both me and my wife, a year full of family drama and strife and accusations. If I’d kept that going through what I wanted to do, there’s no telling when that cycle would have ended.

So now I’m back to where I was before, and not having any idea what to do with all of this. Have I forgiven those involved? I think so. I mean, I don’t hold it against them, now that I’m free again and looking like I want to, so that has to count for something. That may not seem like much coming from a Christian like myself (we’re supposed to forgive everybody, right?) but I’m human, too, and as I’m finding out the healing process can take a very long time and take you somewhere that looks nothing like where you started out from. I don’t want to miss any step in that process, no matter how painful it might be.

Life is still just… different. Will it ever be the same again? I’m not sure. There’s some value in all this, too. I wasn’t kidding when I said this didn’t break me. I’m still doing what I do, reaching out to people from groups that most Christians have just written off. I don’t want anybody to feel the way I did, and to go through that kind of abuse, simply because of who they are and how they choose to express that. In that process, I’ve met some wonderfully open people, people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and I’m grateful for that. Other than that, it’s just one day at a time. In my most open moments I have to admit that life will probably never be the same again, but as I’m learning that doesn’t mean it can’t be good. That’s what I hold on to, and if you’re dealing with loss, or hurt, or anything at all that really sucks, I hope you can find a way to hold on to it, too.  We’ll get there, one day at a time.

Respecting the LGBTQ Community

reach-md             It pains me to think that we as Christians need a biblical case for being respectful to people, but as I interact through social media with members of the LGBTQ community, and watch Christians interact with them in general, this seems more and more to be the case. One of the questions that consistently comes up for me is why on earth we as Christians treat them the way that we do. There are any number of groups out there that we disagree with, and while our responses to different groups have ran the gamut from polite to insane, this particular community is one that we tend to have trouble even being civil with. What I’ve been pondering the last few months is why, and I think I’ve finally come to the place where I can articulate a reasonable explanation.

In my interactions, I’ve noticed one thing in particular that may explain this stance among Christians. In short, we’re afraid. Let me explain a little. The Bible, as we can be very quick to point out, states that homosexuality is a sin. Those who identify as LGBTQ, as I’ve found out, are quick to point out that their sexual orientation (or whatever term they want to use for it), is part of who they are. It is, more often than not, at the core of who they are. The end result is a disconnect. Conversations between the two groups in general are not going to happen when the views involved are so directly opposed to each other. (That being said, the opposition of these views has made for some unfortunate and spectacular arguments on social media.)  For Christians, and here I speak from my own experience, the dilemma is in how to respond to these opposing views. We can either accept LGBTQ individuals for who they are, or we can stick to our guns that it’s a sin and they need to change. The problem is that accepting LGBTQ individuals for who they are would require us to compromise our belief in the authority of Scripture, and we would never do that. We therefore respond in the only way that our fear says remains open to us. In short, we’re not willing to give a little.

I am not talking about giving up on the authority of Scripture. As a Christian myself, that is a belief that I hold to as well. What I am saying is that this situation is not as black and white people on both sides may say, and there is a hell of a lot we as Christians can do just to be respectful to the LGBTQ community while maintaining our respect for the authority of Scripture.

For example, Romans 1 is one of several passages in the New Testament that touch on the issue of homosexuality. The gist in this case seems to be that homosexuality came about because people rejected God. (If you’re reading this and you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, please hear me out before you jump all over me. I am not trying to comment here on whether or not you were born the way you are or whether it’s a choice or to comment on any other aspect of that particular discussion. That is a conversation for another time, and also one that I don’t have all the answers to. What I am trying to do here is simply show other Christians that we need to change the way that we respond to you.) Romans 2, in contrast, opens by pointing out that anyone who judges another for these things condemns themselves because they are also guilty of rejecting God. As the King James Version poetically puts it, “for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself” (Romans 2:1). The bottom line here, and the first observation that needs to be made, is that as sinners ourselves saved only by the grace of God, we have no place whatsoever to justify responding to the LGBTQ community in condemnation. Our response as a whole sucks, and it needs to change.

How, then, should it change? The second observation that needs to be made is that all people everywhere matter to Jesus. As we read in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.” The word “all” pretty much tells you everything you need to know here. The Apostle Paul touches on this as well in 1 Timothy 2, when he says in verse 3 that Jesus “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It’s not wrong to say that you’ve never met a person who doesn’t matter to God, LGBTQ or otherwise. These people matter to him as much as any other. (Again, it pisses me off no end that we seem to need a reminder on this one, but that appears to be the case.)

Finally, I want to observe that if these people matter, and they do, then we need to accept them and treat them with love and respect. Furthermore, doing so doesn’t require us to change our own beliefs. I think we’re afraid of this more than anything else, that by accepting them we have to admit that the Bible is wrong on the subject and therefore could quite possibly be wrong on every other subject contained therein. In all honesty, that fear could not be farther from the truth. In Romans 5:8, the Apostle Paul tells us, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, Jesus took us as we were. There was nothing that we could do to make ourselves acceptable to him, and we didn’t need to make ourselves acceptable anyways. (That’s not how this whole Christianity thing works.) He took us as we are. Why, then, can we not offer the same grace to others?

We have, I think, become so focused on “defending the faith” and maintaining the integrity of our theology that we have, in essence, written off the entire LGBTQ community. That, my friends, is about as un-Christian as it gets. All we have to do is give a little, set aside our differences and focus on the things that matter. It is in many ways the simplest thing in the world, and yet we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. And why? Like I said, we’re afraid. If, as 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear,” then maybe we don’t know the love of Jesus as well as we think we do.